CULTURE

Longtime Onassis friend to publish memoir

In his 19 years working with Aristotle Onassis, from 1956 until the shipping magnate’s death in Paris in 1975, Pavlos I. Ioannidis saw, heard and learnt a great deal. His close association with their father made him a trusted friend of Onassis’s children Alexander, who had had a passion for airplanes since childhood, and Christina, who took the reins of her father’s businesses after his death. Ioannidis was present at the baptism of Christina’s daughter Athena and always visited the child on her birthday at her father’s house in Geneva. It was Ioannidis who welcomed Athena, her father Thierry Roussel and stepmother Gaby on their rare visits to Greece. Ioannidis, along with the head of the Onassis Foundation, the late Stelios Papadimitriou, and Apostolos Zambelas, were the three lifetime members of the foundation’s board – a pilot, a lawyer and an accountant. «The Three Greeks,» as they were known during the court hearings over their management of Athena’s property before she became of age, had shown their hard work, dedication and honesty, qualities for which they were chosen by Onassis, the founder of Olympic Airways who contributed to Greece’s economic development with his enterprising spirit on the seas and in the air. After his death, the foundation established thousands of scholarships, international prizes and seats of Greek studies at foreign universities, among their other benefit work. Ioannidis’s life outside Onassis’s circle was just as exciting. As a young man during the World War II occupation of Greece, he had made his way from the mountains of Greece to the Middle East to join Force 133 and met heroes such as Eddie Myers and Chris Woodhouse, was later trained in the UK’s Royal Air Force and devoted his life to civil aviation. When Onassis founded OA, Ioannidis eventually became the general director of the airline. It was he who flew the remains of Alexander Onassis, after his death in a still-unexplained plane crash, his father Aristotle and then later Christina to their final resting places on the island of Skorpios. The son of a Cypriot doctor, Ioannidis and his first wife Sylvia («Pat») had two children – Yiannis, vice president of the Onassis Foundation, and Irene, an architect. With his second wife Kata Koniavitou, he continues to travel the world for the foundation’s programs and spends quiet weekends by the sea at Theologos. During the war, when he was still planning a future in the navy, he had been told by a fortuneteller that he would become a pilot. «If you are not now, you will be,» she had said, and that is the title of a book Ioannidis has just released (pub. Livanis), to be launched on December 11 at the Hilton. Speakers will include Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, former minister Petros Efthymiou, diplomat Vassilis Vitsaxis and publisher Giorgos Kyrtsos.